The GlobeBusters / Motorcycle Outreach research expedition was yesterday successfully completed when Craig Carey-Clinch and Barbara Alam arrived in the Senegalese capital of Dakar on their BMW R1200GS.
The husband and wife team rode the final stages from Cap Skirring in the Casamance to Dakar in three days going via Banjul in The Gambia and Kaolack in Senegal. They will now fly home to London, arriving in the morning of the 17th.
During their four week trip, the couple have travelled 4116 miles (6585 km) from Malaga and have ridden through eight countries. Their Touratech equipped R1200GS has proved to be an excellent choice of bike, with both machine and equipment performing well during the entire journey.
Craig Carey-Clinch said; “The expedition has achieved all of its aims, we have visited some amazing countries of immense variety and met some of the nicest people on the planet. We are confident that December’s GlobeBusters expedition will offer participants among the best motorcycling and most inspirational experiences that are on offer anywhere.
“We are both grateful to our sponsors, in particular BMW Motorrad and Touratech. The journey would not have been possible without their support.
Well, we’ve made it to Dakar and are both delighted that all has gone so well. PR speak aside, the West Africa overland route is one of the landmark journeys that anyone can make and there really is loads to see, most of it is simply amazing.
Leaving Cap Skirring five days ago, we were surprised to find ourselves dealing with a morning of rain that was at times quite heavy. The tropical environment was steaming as we rode and the air was full of a delicious smell of damp vegetation and wood. We encountered no problems on the quiet roads back to The Gambia, though we saw many troops either training or on manoeuvres. As usual, they mostly waved at us. Casamance is a simply lovely place.
Entering The Gambia, we travelled up four miles of potholes to the main road where the police at the checkpoint there welcomed us back with some enthusiasm and sorted out coffee for us. We spent some time with them watching the comings and goings through their busy checkpoint on the Trans Gambia Highway.
An evening in Banjul and we headed north again, crossing the surprisingly efficient Banjul/Barra ferry. The ferry this time has been a complete contrast to our first visit in 2005. Travel times are a bit quicker and the ferries themselves seem to have been serviced, even the most battered one has clean running smoke free engines now. They are still quite overcrowded though.
The trip to Kaolack was uneventful, though we did discover a pothole of bike swallowing proportions which someone had been good enough to stick a tree branch into. This road starts well and deteriorates some miles outside Kaolack. Survey crews are working along it at the moment, in advance of a new road being built. We also discovered in Kaolack that the challenging Tambacounda to Kaolack road is also being rebuilt.
Riding into Dakar is not for the faint hearted. The road into town has been improved since our last visit, but for a good 30 miles we battled gridlocked traffic and air pollution in the growing heat. It took two hours to get into the city centre through sprawling and filthy suburbs, only to find that due to several UN and World Bank conferences, just about every hotel, cheap or expensive, was booked solid.
We eventually found a place near the sea front which is OK and after dropping the bike off at the shipping agency yesterday, have a final day to sort a few things out before flying home tonight.
Dakar is a city of contrasts. Known for its persistent hustlers, heavy traffic and chaotic pace of life, it still manages to offer some gems of interest. There are many fine colonial buildings in the well planned city centre, including the wonderfully decorated old railway station, whose imposing facade hides the fact that only one passenger train a week now runs from Dakar.
The area around the seaward side of the peninsular is simply lovely and of course the Ile De Goree is one of Senegal’s must sees. We’re hoping to go over to this historic and beautiful island this afternoon in fact.
Tonight we fly home, arriving at 8am tomorrow. I think we’re both looking forward to getting back to London, though as always, leaving Africa will be a wrench. This continent may have many problems, but if you get under the news headlines and actually see the place for yourself, a country of amazing places and people is there to be discovered.
After five days of riding deeper into the tropics and four border crossings, the GlobeBusters / Motorcycle Outreach research expedition has reached Cap Skirring on the border of Guinea Bissau and the Casamance area of Senegal.
Leaving Kayes in Mali on February 6th, husband and wife team, Craig Carey-Clinch and Barbara Alam travelled west through Senegal, crossing into The Gambia, before heading south through the Casamance and on into tropical Guinea Bissau.
The expedition arrived at its most southerly point, the city of Bissau on February 9th.
“The roads south have taken us through increasingly lush vegetation of striking beauty, a real contrast to the desert and often arid Sahel country further north. Roads have been mostly good, particularly in the Casamance and in Bissau, though the stretch between Tambacoudra and Kaolack in Senegal contained an 80 mile stretch of broken tarmac which is very poor. But this made for interesting and challenging riding as we negotiated pot holes and found our way past the numerous heavy trucks, encouraged by the stoic and ever smiling and waving Senegalese lorry drivers.”
Tambacounda to Kaolack road
Equipped with essential engine protection from Touratech, the BMW R1200GS once again proved its credentials on roads ranging from smooth tarmac to deep potholes and rough piste.
Guinea Bissau proved to be a highlight of the expedition. The former Portuguese colony is struggling to recover from a disastrous civil war which ended only in 2000, but was followed by a series of bloody coups. However, the warring factions settled their differences some years ago and after free and fair elections in 2005, Guinea Bissau has a new optimism which is being expressed with new infrastructure developments, including new roads and a real willingness to work towards a peaceful future.
Craig Carey-Clinch commented: “The people of Guinea Bissau are among the friendliest that we have met on the whole expedition. The city of Bissau is very interesting, with new developments and businesses springing up and mingling with fine old Portuguese town houses and the occasional grim remains of partially destroyed public buildings, left as they are, as a reminder of the horrors of war.
Tomorrow, the couple start the final leg of their journey, working their way northwards to arrive in Dakar, before departing for the UK in the early hours of the 17th.
The ride from Kayes in Mali to Tambacoudra, Senegal, was an easy and enjoyable short day of riding on good roads. The border was once again relaxed, easy and involved no cost. We rode through forests of huge baobab trees and mixed country raging from hilly to the flat open plains of the Ferlo. The wildlife is amazing. We spotted more monkeys and strange small creatures which look like squirrels, but have a turn of speed when scuttling across the road which would put Roadrunner to shame. The birdlife varies from small red Fire Finches to metre tall black, ground dwelling crows, eagles and flocks of vultures.
Even the best roads have to be treated with caution. Numerous goats have no regard for traffic, herds of cattle amble out onto the road ahead and piglets dart and weave among the traffic.
Arriving in Tambacoudra, we checked out the national park options. We hope that the GlobeBusters expedition in December can visit the Niokolo Koba, about the only place in West Africa where the explorer can view large mammals and big game. Unfortunately, motorcycles are not allowed into the area, but Tambacoudra seems to be the centre for visits to the Park and we found that organising one or two day excursions from the various hotels, or from the Parks Office in town is incredibly easy and good value for money. The December expedition can also tie up with the Hotel Simenti in the heart of the park, if a night among the lions and giraffes takes people’s fancy, while bikes can be secured in one of the guarded compounds in Tamba for the night.
Leaving Tamba, we immediately found ourselves riding the most incredible piece of ‘road’. For about 80 miles, the route can be best described as a loose collection of bits of tarmac, sometimes vaguely joined to each other to form something that may have once been recognisable as a road.
We bumped along in low gears, jostling with the heavy lorries, battered ‘Touba’ community buses and the other traffic on this very busy highway. But strangely, we soon found that a certain camaraderie exists on this trying stretch. Nothing moves very fast, so people seem more willing to wave, yell greetings and be friendly as we inched our way by. All the traffic was courteous allowing us space to pass. There are numerous breakdowns littering the highway and lorry crews sit patiently on mats underneath their broken leviathans, brewing tea and waiting.
We’ve decided that Senegalese truck drivers are among the best and hardest working people that we have met. Day after day, they haul their decades old articulated lorries along that dreadful piece of road, crashing and rattling though the deep potholes and dust on their worn out running gear, coping with breakdowns, wheels falling off and suspension collapses, sometimes stranded by the side of the road, or even across the road, for days, waiting for spare parts so that their ancient trucks can once again roar defiance at the road through open, unsilenced, exhaust pipes and clouds of belching diesel fumes.
Every time we stopped for some water and a cool-off, several would clatter and rattle to a stop to check if we were OK.
It really was an amazing experience and our BMW R1200 GS shrugged the whole thing off as just another day. The Touratech engine bash plates really came into their own and given the number of times, the bike heavily bottomed out in deep holes, I’m sure that they saved the engine cases from possibly serious damage and yet, the bash plates themselves still look as good as new.
Thankfully, the road gradually improved, so long before we arrived in Kaolack, we were running on smooth tarmac, with only the occasional large pothole to keep us on our toes.
That evening we dined at Chez Annouar, a colonial style cafe which is run by an elderly French couple who stayed behind when the French administration left several decades ago. The place is a particular favourite of Dave French and myself.
The following day we rode down to Banjul in The Gambia. A pleasant 100km ride, which took in more Baobab country and led us through lovely villages of traditional round mud huts. This seems to be a more prosperous part of the country, with village thoroughfares lined with cleaner shops, offering more products than we had been used to further east.
The first 20 miles of roads is piste and potholes, but much easier to ride and we cruised at a steady 30-40mph along most of it. After that, a brand new road leads to the border.
Crossing into English speaking Gambia was straightforward, though the Gambian plain clothes police insisted on searching our luggage. This happened when we visited in 2005, so we were expecting it and the experience was more amusing than anything else, as we explained how things like satellite phones worked to policemen who never usually see such things.
The road from the border to the Gambia River ferry at Barra used to be another stretch of potholed rubbish, but road crews are now hard at work laying an entirely new road. It hasn’t been tarmaced yet, but the temporary piste ‘underlay’ for the forthcoming tar was quite good and allowed normal road speed riding. The job will be finished by the summer.
Taking the ferry was very straightforward. Tickets are bought a mile or so out of town and we managed to ride straight onto the boat, arriving in Banjul in good time to sort out our Guinea Bissau visas and check out various hotel options before deciding that the Africa Village hotel on the coast offered good value for expedition groups. We drank our ‘sundowner’ beer, looking out over the ocean and exciting the imaginations of British package holiday tourists who couldn’t believe that we had come overland from Europe.
The Gambia is one of the main areas of operation for Riders for Health (www.riders.org) RFH’s work in Africa was the inspiration for Motorcycle Outreach’s project in Flores, Indonesia (www.motorcycleoutreach.org) , which was established by Simon Milward in 2002. Our manager in Flores, Willy Balawala, was trained at the RFH centre in Zimbabwe and both Barry and Andrea Coleman from RFH gave Simon a lot of inspiration and support, plus a guiding hand from time to time. Motorcycle Outreach is particularly indebted to RFH for their continued advice and support for what may seem on the face of it to be a rival charity to RFH – though we do operate in different part of the world to each other.
Unusually, in a world where charities compete, sometimes aggressively, with each other, Motorcycle Outreach asks for people to not forget Riders for Heath if making charitable donations to Motorcycle Outreach. Their work is hugely important in Africa and has made a difference to the lives of many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people on the African continent.
I am hoping that the GlobeBusters expedition will be able to visit the Riders for Health in The Gambia, to see how Transport Resource Management (TRM) for rural healthcare by motorcycle is done.
Riding through The Gambia the following day, we were both struck by how much the country has developed, at least alongside the main highway, since we last visited. Lots of new buildings are springing up and business, at least for some, is flourishing. Go further inland though and the grinding poverty of life for many is still starkly apparent. Large sections of the population in West Africa still subsist on less than two dollars a day and for many, education will not lead to work. This means that a lot of young people never bother finishing school, instead, choosing to make an early start on a career of occasional odd jobs or menial labour.
We met the exception on the Gambia River ferry, a group of bright young fifth and sixth form students, who were studying hard to become doctors and other professionals. The education of some of them was being paid for by hard earned contributions from members of their extended families, who were collectively investing their small individual savings in the future of their young relative.
One girl was studying trade associations. This gave an opportunity to talk about the Motor Cycle Industry Association and to provide a ready made case study for her to use!
We crossed once again into Senegal and rode on excellent roads through the contested Casamance region, an area marred by a separatist rebellion in the 1990s and early 2000s, but regarded as generally safe for foreign travellers provided the main roads are used and travel is restricted to daylight hours. Security is tight and we passed numerous groups of troops, who were set up under groups of trees, or patrolling in groups of two or three. All waved us onwards with a smile. As did the occasional customs checkpoints, who after checking that our Carnet was in order, seemed more interested in trying to buy our bike than anything else.
Once again, this was an area of outstanding natural beauty and friendly locals. Set in a topical zone, the Casamance is the jewel in the Senegalese crown and it’s a shame that people are put off visiting by its troubled past, though the number of visitors is slowly increasing.
The crossing into Guinea Bissau was very straightforward and it took only minutes. Again; no ‘fees’ or hassle. We found ourselves riding into an area of dense tropical vegetation along an excellent road, but with virtually no traffic. Just the occasional cyclist, who smiled and waved, or looked dumbstruck by these two wheeled creatures from another planet.
Guinea Bissau is definitely off the tourist trail and gets very few European visitors. A terrible recent history has left a country reeling in poverty and struggling to start again.
This is a peaceful place which needs foreign visitors. The people are outstandingly friendly, despite their circumstances (villages are impoverished and basic services like electricity are rare) and the countryside is heartbreakingly beautiful.
European money means that the roads are being improved and bridges are replacing the battered old ferries which still run in some areas. Roads means that infrastructure, trade and healthcare services can reach people and provide a link to the outside world.
All we ever hear from the climate change lobby and environmentalists in the UK is how bad new roads are. They may have a point about ever growing road traffic in the UK, but in Africa, roads often mean life and I find it particularly despicable that some sections of the ‘developed world’ environmental lobby are arguing that to help ‘avoid’ climate change, Africa should not develop beyond a certain point. Try telling that to Senegalese truck drivers!
We had an easy run on quiet roads down to Bissau city, only delayed by arriving at a ferry crossing when the crew were having their afternoon break. This allowed time for a colourful collection of people and vehicles to gather and trade food and drinks. The BMW excited a lot of interest and although we don’t speak Portuguese, we enjoyed communicating with them and demonstrating aspects of the bike to our awestruck audience.
The city of Bissau is starting to develop again and the main road into town was a mixture of modern buildings, new gas stations, shops and extensive building sites. Colourful street markets lined the routes and traffic became denser.
The old city centre is a quiet place, with streets full of former colonial buildings, with these rubbing noses with new developments and 1960s and 70s administrative buildings which are either newly repaired or still badly damaged by civil war shell-fire. The former Presidential Palace is particularly striking. Left as a memorial to the civil war, the grand colonial facade is marred by shell and bullet holes, with a roof which is partially caved in. It sits on a square lined with grand almost Soviet style buildings, all damaged to various degrees and extensively marked with huge green and brown streaks which comes from the massive humidity of the rainy season of late summer.
We found an excellent place for the GlobeBusters expedition to stay, the Hotel Kalliste, set in a newly refurbished Portuguese building featuring reasonable prices in a surprisingly expensive city by African standards. The hotel also features a lovely pavement cafe/restaurant, where in the evening Bissau’s burgeoning professional classes come to eat, drink and socialise.
Bissau people were genuinely interested in what we were doing there and many mentioned the real need for tourism and were grateful that GlobeBusters is considering taking a motorcycle expedition there. I expect that the welcome for the group of riders will be very warm indeed.
Yesterday morning, we bade a somewhat regretful farewell to Bissau and once again travelled the very good road to the border. Riding in the cool of the morning meant more road traffic and police checkpoints. All were straightforward and friendly and we were able to once again enjoy the tropical palms, birdlife and estuarial Mangrove beds as we travelled.
Crossing back into Senegal was again very easy, though this time, a police checkpoint, just down from the border searched our luggage. The cop, with mock seriousness, made strenuous efforts to get me to sell the GS.
We arrived at Cap Skirring on the Casamance coast yesterday afternoon and are currently staying at one of those beach-side places which earns its existence from the outstanding equatorial coast line. The border with Bissau is only about a mile from here and this morning, a local character told us that in years gone by, entry to Bissau was gained by wearing a dramatic and colourful face mask – an example of which, he then of course proceeded to try and sell to us!
Tomorrow, we leave for The Gambia again, heading north to Dakar, where we expect to arrive in good time to sort out the shipping for the bike and to get ready for our flight home. We’ll try and send a final update before we leave for the UK
After six days of riding through the West African desert and Sahel, the Globebusters / Motorcycle Outreach Research Expedition has reached the town of Kayes in Mali.
Two days in the Sahara Desert, crossing Mauritania between Nouadhibou in the north and the Barrage De Diama in the south, saw BMW R1200GS rider, Craig Carey-Clinch and his wife Barbara Alam, brave sand storms, long piste tracks and increasing temperatures.
Entering Senegal, the couple spent a day at the travellers haven of Zebrabar an auberge in the heart of the Barbary Coast National Park. This included researching accommodation and activities in the beautiful former colonial town of St Louis.
Then it was eastwards again, riding the Northern Senegal route to the road border with Mali, along mixed roads which are off the usual tourist trail. The towns of Matarn and Bakel on the Senegal River were visited.
A final day’s ride took both across into Mali at the Kidira/Diboli crossing and pausing to remember the late Simon Milward, who died in a 2005 accident on the road between the border to Kayes, Craig and Barbara later arrived in Kayes, a town which is reputed to be Africa’s hottest in the summer.
Craig commented; “We’ve seen some terrific riding and visited incredibly interesting places. The piste between Rosso and Diama in Mauritania goes through a national park full of different kinds of exotic birds. St Louis is also well worth visiting as is Kayes, where we looked at the former French fortress near the town, a short ride on a piste which covered the bike in clouds of the distinctive red dust of Mali..
“The 500km stretch between Nouadhibou and Nouakchott saw us beset by a sand storm. It seems that the Harmattan winds are blowing early this year. The bike held out fine, though the left side was blasted as clean as new by the sand. The Touratech headlight protector really came into its own and saved the headlights from the kind of sand damage that we saw on other travellers cars when we stopped in Nouakchott”
The couple now head west again, crossing back into Senegal and on towards the Gambia and the Atlantic coast route south again.
That sand storm in Mauritania was an exhilarating experience, though not one I would want to repeat too many times. The sand flowed like water over the road as we travelled and every so often visibility was reduced to a few yards as the wind whipped the sand up into a kind of yellow opaque mist. Certainly an experience we’ll never forget. Fortunately for the Globebusters expedition next December, it should be too early in the season for these kinds of winds.
The Piste from Rosso to Diama was a real highlight of our journey so far. The route is mixed packed mud, loose dirt and the occasional patch of soft sand. Quite easy for the GS, despite only having road tyres fitted. The birdlife is something to behold, a particular highlight was seeing a vast flock of Pelicans formatting over our heads as they caught thermals to fly in organised groups ever higher in the azure sky.
We took the piste to avoid crossing the border into Senegal at Rosso, a border crossing of particular notoriety and not for the faint hearted.
In Senegal, Zebrabar was our base for two nights as we did some research in the northern coastal town of St Louis. This travellers auberge is run by a Swiss couple and caters for overland types, both two and four wheeled. It was good to meet the various folk that blow into the place from the desert, or from further south.
Special mention must go to Dan and Jodi, a Kiwi and a South African, who were en route between London and Cape town on their two motorcycles. A great character was Nic Collins, a Landrover driver from Stroud, Gloucestershire, who was coming to the end of year’s solo travel in Africa. His tales of adversity and adventure in Central Africa would make an excellent book.
From Zebrabar, we headed on the Northern Senegal Route to Richard Toll. This transit town is the centre of Senegal’s sugar industry and is the site of an old ruined French Chateau which sits in a huge formerly planned garden of trees and shrubs. The garden and house give the town its name, “Toll” being Senegalese for garden. Well worth a look anyway.
From here, we rode the long and picturesque route towards Kidira where the traveller crosses into Mali. This road is quite good, though there are short stretches which are potholed and due to some ongoing road improvements, short stretches where the tarmac has been ripped off the surface, allowing us the opportunity to practice a few off road skills!
The landscape varies a lot on this road, from beautiful forested undulating hills, to riverside plain, to quite rocky and steep areas, where troops of monkeys can be seen going about their business.
A night’s stay at Ouro Sogui and we headed for the border and crossed into Mali yesterday lunchtime. A totally hassle free experience and no ‘cadeau’ or ‘fees’ required.
On the 90km road to Kayes from the border is the place where Simon Milward died in 2005. He was travelling along a road which was at that time a fairly poor piste, though nowadays a brand new sealed road has replaced this. We stopped for some time here, remembering Simon and his life. He left a lot of memories behind for all who knew him and although he was known as a riders rights man, when he founded Motorcycle Outreach and the Flores project, he left a legacy of great humanity.
Kayes is known to be hot and arriving in the heat of the day, we were glad to sink some cold lemonade at the Hotel Du Rail. This former French colonial building is faded and battered now, but the rooms are good and the food excellent.
This morning, we took the bike to visit the old French fort at Medine. The fort is set in hilly and picturesque countryside and is well worth a visit. The ride 16 down a hilly gravel, red dust and soft sand piste, two up and using road tyres was an interesting challenge though!.
Tomorrow, we head for Tambacounda, back in Senegal. From there we will see if it’s possible for bikes to visit the national park near there, which hosts big game and large mammals. If not, we’ll see what one day or two day tours can be arranged directly from Tamba, for the December expedition.
After that, we head for Kaolack and then south and into the Gambia. We hope to send an update at around about this time.
After four days in the desert, we are now in Nouadhibou, having crossed the border from Western Sahara (Sahara Occidental) into Mauritania.
After our last update, we rode from Essaouira to Tafraoute in the high Anti Atlas, a day of gentle riding along the coast to Agadir, which included the hills where Argan Oil is produced. This is the increasingly popular alternative to olive oil, which is extracted from the seeds of the Argan Tree. The catch is that the Argan seed is first eaten by goats which are placed into the trees to feast on the fruit. The seeds are then collected and processed after the goats have digested them a little! So think goat-poo oil when you hear about Argan oil. Having said that, it’s excellent and tasty oil! Hmmm
After lunch in an English pub in Agadir, an odd experience, we headed into the Anti Atlas, an incredible afternoon’s riding through dramatic mountain twisties, climbing ever higher to the ancient town of Tafraoute. The town is set in an area of pink granite and dominated by imposing high peaks, well worth a visit.
The following day we headed down to Tiznit and then on out into the Sahara, stopping for lunch at Guelmim, the start of the Sahara proper. A warm afternoon’s ride through increasingly arid landscape brought us to the town of Tan Tan, a very rustic Moroccan town, where the locals regard themselves as Saharan rather than Moroccan.
The following morning, we rode a short 25km to Tan Tan Plage to check out some hotels on the beach there, a fair wind was blowing, which kept us on the cool side, but the riding along the coast after Tan Tan Plage was excellent, with dramatic desert scapes plunging into the Atlantic surf on our right as we rode.
We made some great discoveries that morning; this is a really interesting part of the coast to ride and the Lagoon Naila (Foum Agoutir), with its views over a fish filled lagoon and the huge numbers of sea birds is a definite must-see.
Shortly after this, we met two English guys, Josh and Ed, on their way to South Africa, but on a seriously tight budget. They were both on older bikes with ingenious hand made hard luggage and a light hearted attitude. Meeting them was a breath of fresh air.
The four of us lunched in Tarfaya, the old fishing port near the Western Sahara border, where the traveller can view a memorial to Antoine St. Exupery, the pioneering pilot who flew the French mail service to Dakar in the 1920s and 30s. He wrote three books, of which Southern Mail and Night Flight are well worth a read. He was lost in North Africa in 1943, but is still remembered on the lonely Sahara coast. Tarfaya is rapidly converting from a dusty desert fishing town to something entirely different, A ferry now runs to and from the Canary Islands and real estate prices are rising by the week as development money is poised to pour into the town. King Mohammed is due to give his blessing to huge building works here in the next two to three months. Another English guy we met at lunch was in the process of buying a house in Tarfaya to use as a base for his travels and also as an investment. Currently, a good sized apartment can be picked up for around 7,000 (UK).
Later we passed into the Western Sahara, a new monument to five Moroccan kings now standing at the previously unmarked border.
Western Sahara is disputed territory, with Morocco asserting its claim to the country, while the Polisario Front contest this. Until 10 years ago, shooting matches between both sides were commonplace, but a UN brokered ceasefire has held, making the country a safe place to travel as long as you stick to the main routes and towns and don’t stray into the far east of the country, where banditry is a risk.
At some point there is supposed to be a referendum on the future of the country, but in the meantime, Morocco continues to pour money and resources into the area. There seems little doubt that the Western Sahara will remain substantially tied to Morocco in the longer term.
After a night in the UN filled capital Laayoune, we headed south for the 520km ride to Dakhla in the south of the country, a long desert day which started freezing cold and ended under a blazing sun and 30 degree heat. Such are desert contrasts!
Dakhla sits at the end of a 40km sand peninsular and was a welcome sight after a long day’s ride. This town has also seen massive development and seems to grow in size each time we visit. Our usual hotel, the Doumes was closed for refurbishment, so we stopped for the night in the Regency Sahara, a place that tries ever so hard to be four star. But it was a good night’s sleep aided by a bar which is the only place that serves alcohol in the city.
We met another English guy, who was on a tight itinerary to get home. He had ridden nearly 800km that day and was planning to get back into Morocco the following day. There were also two Frenchmen who had ridden from Paris on two old style Mobylette mopeds. They had been on the road for three weeks and were aiming for Dakar.
Yesterday we departed early for the Mauritanian border. A 300km ride through the loneliest roads we had travelled thus far. The occasional truck or four wheel drive passed us but little else. We did pass two small groups of British registered motorcycles heading north, but didn’t stop to chat.
The landscape on this stretch is kinder to the eye and the Golfe de Cintra is worth a stop. Another pleasant stop can be taken on the beach about half way to the border.
After refilling at the last petrol station, a place that many traveller know as G1 (Gas 1) we arrived at the border at mid-day. Moroccan formalities were straightforward, though we were held up by the final army checkpoint for half an hour waiting with a queue of travellers for a soldier to lazily take our details and ask a few pointless questions.
Then it was out into the minefield and along the 5km rough piste and sand traps, following well established tracks to arrive at the Mauritanian border.
We were fortunate to arrive just before the lunchtime closure had finished and being on a bike, we of course went to the head of the queue! New border buildings are rapidly replacing the old tumbledown wooden huts which used to mark Mauri customs and the Army were well pleased with their new facilities and clean new uniforms, a dividend from the new Government I should imagine.
Army, Police and Customs were cleared in short order and we headed south once again, joining the new road from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott for a short ride along first class tarmac into Nouadhibou.
The town itself is tumbledown and has an air of chaos. Mauritania ranks among the top five poorest countries in the world, but the people have great dignity and honour, falling over themselves to help out. Nouadhibou hosts a large fishing fleet and sits on a coastline which is densely packed with fish. This and supporting industries keep alive a town which has seen a reduction in tourist income since the new road allows travellers to by-pass the area.
We are staying at the Hotel Osian at the small town of Cansado, south of Nouadhibou. The views out to see are dramatic and it’s a good place to take a break, see the port, enjoy well cooked fish at the Canaria Restaurant and view the large numbers of shipwrecks which litter the shore.
Tomorrow we head for Nouakchott and after a night there, we head south and into Senegal. We’ll post a further update in a few days. Mobile phones do not work here.
After five days of excellent riding through the warm and pleasant Moroccan winter, the Globebusters / Motorcycle Outreach West Africa research expedition has reached the ancient Portuguese Port of Essaouira, for a well earned rest day.
Craig Carey-Clinch and Barbara Alam have covered just under 700 miles through the impressive mountain areas of the Rif and Middle Atlas.
The Berber mountain town of Chefchaouen was the atmospheric first stop in Morocco, the daunting backdrop of the high Rif peaks, hanging over this ancient and for many years independent city. The Medina and street markets providing a colourful start to the expedition proper.
A journey then took the riders and their BMW R1200GS out of the Rif and towards the Imperial city of Meknes. The vast Roman ruins at Volubilis were visited, as was the holy town of Moulay-Idriss, a place where the Muslim faithful can experience the Haj if Mecca is beyond their means.
Passing through busy and hectic Meknes, a night was spent in the foothills of the Middle Atlas in the regional town of Azrou and the following day, the Middle Atlas were challenged, with a long and twisty climb of several thousand feet through breathtaking mountain scenery to Azilal and then onto the spectacular waterfalls at the Cascades d’Ouzoude.
The long ride to Essaouira then followed, via the traffic chaos and pedestrian anarchy of Marrakech.
Tomorrow, Craig and Barbara head south once again. After a night high in the Anti Atlas at the town of Tafraoute, the Sahara Desert beckons
All has gone well since our last update, just prior to leaving the UK. A smooth flight to Malaga was followed by a taxi ride to pick up our bike, courtesy of James Cargo, who had shipped it to Marbella. A shakedown ride to Ceuta, across the Straits of Gibraltar in Spanish Morocco revealed that all was well with the bike and our kit.
Ceuta is a pleasant place, not quite Europe, not quite Africa, hotels need to be booked in advance to guarantee a place to stay and food is difficult to find before 9pm. It makes a good staging post for any trip into Africa.
The crossing into Morocco has become very straightforward compared to the chaos and rip-off hustling of my first visit eight years ago. We completed border formalities in under 20 minutes, a bit of a record.
Northern Morocco has become one huge building site, as billions is sunk into new hotels, apartments and infrastructure. Even scruffy Tetouan is cleaning up its act and the familiar stench of sewage that used to hang over the city has gone.
The ride to Chefchaouen was spectacular. The good road takes you higher into the Rif Mountains until the city is revealed, its white walls sparkling in the late afternoon sun. We had dinner on the main square and explored the winding, narrow lanes of the fascinating Medina. Lots of blue painted buildings here, a colour which is associated with the Berber people, but we understand was actually introduced by Jewish refugees in the 1930s.
The following day’s ride took us out of the mountains and into a rolling landscape of treeless green hills, interspersed with numerous olive groves. We stopped at Volubilis to admire the acres of Roman ruins and pressed on to Azrou for our night stop.
When I visited Azrou in 2000, the road was barely acceptable and only a few fly-blown cafes and restaurants lined the dusty streets. Nowadays, it’s a bustling and interesting market town, with numerous pavement cafes and modern commerce. Morocco changes and develops visibly each year it seems.
The ride to the Cascades d’Ouzoud took us along the foothills of the Middle Atlas, spectacular scenery and excellent riding along variable, but tarmaced roads. The climb to the Cascades is full of dramatic scenes as the road takes the rider 3000 feet above the Central Moroccan plain.
The Cascades themselves are a truly beautiful series of waterfalls which fall about 350 feet to pools lined with cafes below. We stayed in the Riad which overlooks the falls, set as they are in an amazing mountain location.
Yesterday, we left the mountains behind us and headed for the coast at Essaouira, where we are now. This is a less pretty ride, but Marrakech lies en-route as does a strange but interesting area of complete aridity, which looks very like the desert further south.
The bike is running well and provides much better flexibility than our faithful but modestly powered GS Dakars of the 2005 adventure. The usual kit packing controversies apply as we debate each day about where we left some item or other when we last packed!
Tomorrow we head for the Anti Atlas, via Agadir. The route we’re riding makes the best of the mountains, as the terrain flattens out considerably after we enter the Sahara.
Overland motorcyclist and motorcycle industry lobbyist Craig Carey-Clinch has today departed for West Africa on a motorcycle expedition to explore and research seven West African countries in advance of a new motorcycle expedition which is being offered by leading motorcycle expedition operator Globebusters in December 2008.
Accompanied by his wife and fellow lobbyist, Barbara Alam, the ride is also being held to raise awareness of the charity Motorcycle Outreach, which supports projects in developing countries that utilise motorcycles for use in primary healthcare in remote rural areas. Globebusters will be supporting Motorcycle Outreach in 2008.
Craig And Barbara are flying to Malaga where their R1200GS will be collected from shipping agents James Cargo, who have also provided support. The port of Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco will be the first ‘port of call’ before the pair enter Morocco and start heading south.
Countries visited after this will be Western Sahara, Mauritania, Mali, Senegal, The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. Both will return to the UK from Dakar, Senegal on February 17th.
The ride is being strongly supported by BMW Motorrad, who have provided the exceptional R1200GS. BMW Dealer, Vines of Guildford have prepared the bike and offered other support. Another major sponsor is Touratech, who have provided hard luggage and other essential items to kit the R1200GS for a long distance African journey.
Motorcycle Outreach was founded by the late Simon Milward, who was inspired by the Riders for Health (RfH) projects in Africa. He founded the first Motorcycle Outreach project on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2002. Based on RfH principles, the Flores project today serves over 55,000 people in remote rural areas, by providing motorcycles to healthcare workers, who because of poor roads would not otherwise be able to provide basic healthcare services.
Simon’s round the world ride between 1999 and 2005, plus his charitable work inspired other similar projects, including the Polotos Solidarios project in Argentina.
As a result of this expedition, GlobeBusters, the UK ‘s leading long distance overland motorcycle travel company, will lead a team of riders on a new motorcycle adventure, leaving in December 2008. It will mostly utilise the growing network of sealed roads, surprisingly, making the 5,000 mile moto trek mainly on tarmac.
Motorcycle Outreach (MoR) is delighted to announce that BMW Motorrad are again supporting an African motorcycle expedition by motorcycle industry lobbyist, overland rider and MoR co-founder Craig Carey-Clinch.
BMW Motorrad have kindly provided the exceptional R1200GS for Craig’s latest expedition to Equatorial West Africa. He will depart from the UK during the latter half of January 2008.
Craig will be conducting a research journey in advance of an organised expedition to Equatorial Africa in December 2008, which is being offered to motorcyclists by Globebusters Motorcycle Expeditions.
Globebusters have teamed with Motorcycle Outreach to offer riders this exciting new five week motorcycle expedition. The expedition will travel to the previously unexplored destination of Guinea Bissau, which will be something different for riders seeking to experience their own Long Way Down adventure.
A proportion of the trip price will go to MoR’s work to provide sustainable healthcare logistics, by motorcycle, in rural areas of Indonesia
Craig commented; “At the heart of any well organised and supported motorcycle expedition is proper advance route planning and research. At the heart of a demanding journey such as this should be a motorcycle which is well suited to the tough itinerary of a research trip.
“I am delighted that BMW Motorrad have once again decided to support a West African expedition which is connected to Motorcycle Outreach. In 2005, BMW also provided vital support, two GS650 Dakars and riding equipment for an expedition to West Africa where a visit to Riders for Health in The Gambia served to launch Motorcycle Outreach and commemorate the life and round the world journey of global rider, the late Simon Milward.”
“The R1200GS is an exceptional motorcycle with a Proven track record for reliability and versatility on what can be uncertain terrain and in the hot climatic conditions that are faced in the Sahara and West Africa.”
Riders can find out more about the main expedition in December 2008 by calling the GlobeBusters Enquiry line on 08452 30415 or online at http://www.globebusters.com
In response to general interest the organisers of the Milward Memorial Ride have put together a motorcycle tour of North and West Africa in support of Motorcycle Outreach. The five week, 8000km motorcycle trip will include scenic diversions in Morocco, the remote region of Western Sahara and a visit to the Riders for Health facility in The Gambia.
The exciting new five week motorcycle expedition into North & West Africa offers the previously unexplored destination of Guinea Bissau, as something different for riders seeking to experience their own Long Way Down adventure.
GlobeBusters, the UK\’s leading long distance overland motorcycle travel company, have teamed with the charity Motorcycle Outreach (MoR) to lead a team of riders on this new motorcycle adventure, leaving in November 2008. A proportion of trip price will go to MoR\’s work to provide sustainable healthcare logistics, by motorcycle, in rural areas of Indonesia
The expedition will mostly utilise the growing network of sealed roads, surprisingly, making the 5,000 mile moto trek mainly on tarmac.
That is not to say the challenge is any the less as riders will face the vibrancy and chaos of African culture, vast desert landscapes, extreme weather conditions, and challenging border practices as they head down from Morocco, through the Western Sahara, Mauritania, Mali, Senegal & The Gambia to their final goal of Guinea Bissau. This type of trip tests your attitude to travel as much as it does riding the bike.
Led by Double Guinness World Record Holder, Kevin Sanders who runs GlobeBusters, together with motorcycle adventure traveller and Motorcycle Outreach\’s, Craig Carey-Clinch, riders will enjoy the usual standard of GlobeBusters organizational excellence, and along with the ride, get to experience an Africa jungle safari and. In The Gambia, a visit to the Riders for Health facility (whose medical care model is the basis for Motorcycle Outreach) is also planned.
Riders can book this ground breaking trip by calling the GlobeBusters Enquiry line on 08452 30415 or online at the Globebusters website.